An inspiring anthology that celebrates our nation with more than one hundred of the greatest poems ever written about the landscapes, institutions, and transforming events of America.

This remarkable volume commemorates our country's struggles and triumphs with poems chronicling the American experience in all its vastness, from the late seventeenth century through the present day. Alongside poems about New York, Florida, and California are descriptions of railroads, amusement ...

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Poems for America

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An inspiring anthology that celebrates our nation with more than one hundred of the greatest poems ever written about the landscapes, institutions, and transforming events of America.

This remarkable volume commemorates our country's struggles and triumphs with poems chronicling the American experience in all its vastness, from the late seventeenth century through the present day. Alongside poems about New York, Florida, and California are descriptions of railroads, amusement parks, hotels, and road trips; scenes of rural and western life; vivid descriptions of our grandest cities; and poems that illuminate the complexity of the most shameful chapters in U.S. history, such as slavery and the oppression of Native Americans. Taken together, these poems -- whether voices of celebration or dissent -- honor the astonishing and enduring spirit of our nation.

Here are classics such as "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," and "Paul Revere's Ride"; works by American masters, including Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, and Elizabeth Bishop; and lesser-known gems by important American writers, such as Ernest Hemingway's "I Like Americans" and Henry David Thoreau's "Our Country." Also featured are poems by contemporary talents, including Richard Wilbur, Philip Levine, Adrienne Rich, Yusef Komunyakaa, Rita Dove, and Sherman Alexie. A timeless volume that traces the history of the United States through verse, Poems for America is essential for poetry lovers and for anyone who appreciates the rich and fascinating story of our nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A chronological tour from Bradstreet, Freneau and Wheatley to Sherman Alexie, Barbara Kingsolver and Elizabeth Alexander, Poems for America: 125 Poems That Celebrate the American Experience hits many of the highs and lows of American life, from the expected ("The Battle Hymn of the Republic" to the happily surprising (Ishmael Reed's "black power poem"). Editor Carmela Ciuraru invokes her first-generation heritage in the preface, noting that "For me, patriotism resonates most deeply when I consider the American art and music and literature so essential to my enjoyment of life."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416595656
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 11/1/2007
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • File size: 367 KB

Meet the Author

Carmela Ciuraru

Carmela Ciuraru is the editor of the anthologies First Loves and Beat Poets. She lives in New York City.
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Read an Excerpt

Below are sample works from Poems for America, including poems by Samuel French Smith, Jones Very, Walt Whitman, Frances E.W. Harper, Emma Lazarus, Elizabeth Alexander, Barbara Kingsolver, Campbell McGrath, and Sherman Alexie.

My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From ev'ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills,
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom's song.
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our father's God, to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King!
—Samuel Francis Smith

The First Atlantic Telegraph
With outward signs, as well as inward life,
The world is hastening onward to its end!
With higher purposes our Age is rife,
Than those to which with grovelling minds we tend.
For lo! beneath the Atlantic's stormy breast
Is laid, from shore to shore, the Electric Wire;
And words, with speed of thought, from east to west
Dart to and fro on wings that never tire.
May never man, to higher objects blind,
Forget by whom this miracle was wrought;
But worship and adore the Eternal Mind,
Which gave at length to man the wondrous thought;
And on wise-hearted men bestowed the skill
His Providential Purpose to fulfill.
—Jones Very

I Hear America Singing
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be
    blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work,
    or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat,
    the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
    as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning,
    or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work,
    or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
    robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
—Walt Whitman

The Slave Mother
Heard you that shriek? It rose
   So wildly on the air,
It seemed as if a burden'd heart
   Was breaking in despair.

Saw you those hands so sadly clasped—
   The bowed and feeble head—
The shuddering of that fragile form—
   That look of grief and dread?

Saw you the sad, imploring eye?
   Its every glance was pain,
As if a storm of agony
   Were sweeping through the brain.

She is a mother, pale with fear,
   Her boy clings to her side,
And in her kirtle vainly tries
   His trembling form to hide.

He is not hers, although she bore
   For him a mother's pains;
He is not hers, although her blood
   Is coursing through his veins!

He is not hers, for cruel hands
   May rudely tear apart
The only wreath of household love
   That binds her breaking heart.

His love has been a joyous light
   That o'er her pathway smiled,
A fountain gushing ever new,
   Amid life's desert wild.

His lightest word has been a tone
   Of music round her heart,
Their lives a streamlet blent in one—
   Oh, Father! must they part?

They tear him from her circling arms,
   Her last and fond embrace.
Oh! never more may her sad eyes
   Gaze on his mournful face.

No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks
   Disturb the listening air:
She is a mother, and her heart
   Is breaking in despair.
—Frances E. W. Harper

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
—Emma Lazarus

Boston Year
My first year in Cambridge a car full of white boys
tried to run me off the road, and spit through the window,
open to ask directions. I was always asking directions
and always driving: to an Armenian market
in Watertown to buy figs and string cheese, apricots,
dark spices and olives from barrels, tubes of paste
with unreadable Arabic labels. I ate
stuffed grape leaves and watched my lips swell in the mirror.
The floors of my apartment would never come clean.
Whenever I saw other colored people
in bookshops, or museums, or cafeterias, I'd gasp,
smile shyly, but they'd disappear before I spoke.
What would I have said to them? Come with me? Take
me home? Are you my mother? No. I sat alone
in countless Chinese restaurants eating almond
cookies, sipping tea with spoons and spoons of sugar.
Popcorn and coffee was dinner. When I fainted
from migraine in the grocery store, a Portuguese
man above me mouthed: "No breakfast." He gave me
orange juice and chocolate bars. The color red
sprang into relief singing Wagner's Walküre.
Entire tribes gyrated and drummed in my head.
I learned the samba from a Brazilian man
so tiny, so festooned with glitter I was certain
that he slept inside a filigreed, Fabergé egg.
No one at the door: no salesmen, Mormons, meter
readers, exterminators, no Harriet Tubman,
no one. Red notes sounding in a grey trolley town.
—Elizabeth Alexander

What the Janitor Heard in the Elevator
The woman in gold bracelets tells her friend:
I had to fire another one.
Can you believe it?
She broke the vase
Jack gave me for Christmas.
It was one of those,
you know? That worked
with everything. All my colors.
I asked him if he'd mind
if I bought one again just like it.
It was the only one that just always worked.

Her friend says:
Find another one that speaks English.
That's a plus.

The woman in gold agrees
that is a plus.
—Barbara Kingsolver

Capitalist Poem #5
I was at the 7-11.
I ate a burrito.
I drank a Slurpee.
I was tired.
It was late, after work—washing dishes.
The burrito was good.
I had another.

I did it every day for a week.
I did it every day for a month.

To cook a burrito you tear off the plastic wrapper.
You push button #3 on the microwave.
Burritos are large, small, or medium.
Red or green chili peppers.
Beef or bean or both.
There are 7-11's all across the nation.

On the way out I bought a quart of beer for $1.39.
I was aware of the social injustice

in only the vaguest possible way.
—Campbell McGrath

At the Navajo Monument Valley
Tribal School
the football field rises
to meet the mesa. Indian boys
gallop across the grass, against

the beginning of their body.
On those Saturday afternoons,
unbroken horses gather to watch

their sons growing larger
in the small parts of the world.
Everyone is the quarterback.

There is no thin man in a big hat
writing down all the names
in two columns: winners and losers.

This is the eternal football game,
Indians versus Indians. All the Skins
in the wooden bleachers fancydancing,

stomping red dust straight down
into nothing. Before the game is over,
the eighth-grade girls' track team

comes running, circling the field,
their thin and brown legs echoing
wild horses, wild horses, wild horses.
—Sherman Alexie
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Table of Contents



Anne Bradstreet (c. 1612-1672): "Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House July 10th, 1666. Copied Out of a Loose Paper"

Philip Freneau (1752-1832): "The Indian Burying Ground"

Phillis Wheatley (c.1753-1784): "To the Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth, His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for North America, &c."

"To a Lady on Her Remarkable Preservation in an Hurricane in North Carolina"

Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791-1865): "The Indian's Welcome to the Pilgrim Fathers"

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878): Excerpt, "The Prairies"

George Moses Horton (c.1797-c.1883): "On Liberty and Slavery"

Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880): "The New-England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day"

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882): "Concord Hymn"

"Boston Hymn"

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882): "Paul Revere's Ride"

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892): "Barbara Frietchie"

Samuel Francis Smith (1808-1895): "America"

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894): "Old Ironsides"

Jones Very (1813-1880): "The First Atlantic Telegraph"

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862): "Our Country"

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891): "An Ode for the Fourth of July, 1876"

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910): "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"

Walt Whitman (1819-1892): "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

"City of Orgies"

"A Promise to California"

"I Hear America Singing"

Herman Melville (1819-1891): "Ball's Bluff"

James Monroe Whitfield (1822-1871): "America"

Frances E. W. Harper (1825-1911): "The Slave Mother"

"Learning to Read"

Henry Timrod (1828-1867): "Ode Sung at Magnolia Cemetery"

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886): #389 [There's been a Death, in the Opposite House,"]

#617 ["Don't put up my Thread and Needle -"]

Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909): "At Home from Church"

Emma Lazarus (1849-1887): "Long Island Sound"

"The New Colossus"

James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916): Excerpt, "The Old Swimmin'-Hole"

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935): "The Anti-Suffragists"

Frank Bird Linderman (1869-1938): "Cabins"

Stephen Crane (1871-1900): "War Is Kind"

Amy Lowell (1874-1925): "Thompson's Lunch Room -- Grand Central Station"

Arthur Chapman (1874-1935): "The Dude Ranch"

Robert Frost (1874-1963): "After Apple-Picking"

Alice Moore Dunbar Nelson (1875-1935): "I Sit and Sew"

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967): "Work Gangs"

Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931): "The Flower-Fed Buffaloes"

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955): "Fabliau of Florida"

"Anecdote of the Jar"

Badger Clark Jr. (1883-1957): "The Legend of Boastful Bill"

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963): "The Forgotten City"

Marianne Moore (1887-1972): "Old Amusement Park"

"Love in America -- "

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965): "The Boston Evening Transcript"

Claude McKay (1890-1948): "Dawn in New York"

John Peale Bishop (1892-1944): "O Pioneers!"

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950): "From a Train Window"

Genevieve Taggard (1894-1948): "American Farm, 1934"

H. L. Davis (1894-1960): "Proud Riders"

e. e. cummings (1894-1962): "'next to of course god america i"


Hart Crane (1899-1932): "To Brooklyn Bridge"

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961): "I Like Americans"

Yvor Winters (1900-1968): "In Praise of California Wines"

Langston Hughes (1902-1967): "We're All in the Telephone Book"

Helene Johnson (1907-1995): "Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem"

George Oppen (1908-1984): "Product"


Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979): "Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore"


Josephine Miles (1911-1985): "Tract"

"The Campaign"

Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980): Excerpt, "The Outer Banks"


John Berryman (1914-1972): "American Lights, Seen from off Abroad"

Margaret Walker (1915-1998): "Southern Song"

Robert Lowell (1917-1977): "The Mouth of the Hudson"

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000): "We Real Cool"

May Swenson (1919-1989): "Bronco Busting, Event #1"

"Bison Crossing Near Mt. Rushmore"

Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-): "The Changing Light"

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994): "vegas"

Hayden Carruth (1921-): "In Georgetown"

Marie Ponsot (1921-): "Pleasant Avenue"

Richard Wilbur (1921-): "Wellfleet: The House"

James Schuyler (1923-1991): "April and Its Forsythia"

Bob Kaufman (1925-1986): "Bagel Shop Jazz"

Frank O'Hara (1926-1966): "Music"

Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997): "America"

A. R. Ammons (1926-2001): "First Carolina Said-Song"

Robert Bly (1926-): "Sleet Storm on the Merritt Parkway"

Anne Sexton (1928-1974): "And One for My Dame"

Donald Hall (1928-): "Transcontinent"


Philip Levine (1928-): "Belle Isle, 1949"

Adrienne Rich (1929-): "Prospective Immigrants Please Note"

Excerpt, "From an Old House in America"

Gary Snyder (1930-): "All over the Dry Grasses"

Audre Lorde (1934-1992): "Every Traveler Has One Vermont Poem"

Sonia Sanchez (1935-): "Listenen to Big Black at S.F. State"

Charles Wright (1935-): "American Twilight"

Lucille Clifton (1936-): "at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989"

Ishmael Reed (1938-): "black power poem"

Michael Dennis Browne (1940-): "Iowa"

William Matthews (1942-1997): "Why We Are Truly a Nation"

Nikki Giovanni (1943-): "Knoxville, Tennessee"

"My Poem"

Wanda Coleman (1946-): "Today I Am a Homicide in the North of the City"

Minnie Bruce Pratt (1946-): "Walking Back Up Depot Street"

Jane Kenyon (1947-1995): "At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina"

"The Way Things Are in Franklin"

Reginald Gibbons (1947-): "American Trains"

Yusef Komunyakaa (1947-): "Facing It"

Heather McHugh (1948-): "Language Lesson 1976"

Julia Alvarez (1950-): "Queens, 1963"

Sapphire (1950-): "California Dreamin'"

John Yau (1950-): "The Dream Life of a Coffin Factory in Lynn, Massachusetts"

Robin Becker (1951-): "Community Garden, Sixth Street and Avenue B"

Rita Dove (1952-): "Crab-Boil"


Ray Gonzalez (1952-): "I Hear the Bells of the Ice-Cream Vendor Outside My Door"

Mark Doty (1953-): "Adonis Theater"

Dave Alvin (1955-): "Spiderman Versus the Kachinas"

Kimiko Hahn (1955-): "The Hula Skirt, 1959"

Barbara Kingsolver (1955-): "What the Janitor Heard in the Elevator"

David Woo (1959-): "Eden"

Elizabeth Alexander (1962-): "Boston Year"

Campbell McGrath (1962-): "Capitalist Poem #5"

Sherman Alexie (1966-): "At the Navajo Monument Valley Tribal School"

AFTERWORD: Edward Sanders (1939-): Excerpt, "Introduction"





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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2003

    Touching Poetry

    Poems for America is a really touching poetry book that is extremly heart warming especially because of all the the things happening in our world today. This book really gives a sense of American pride.

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